Interview with Charles Albouy, Business Development Manager for Asia Pacific
Could you tell us about the history of Saltel Industries and its core activity?
Saltel Industries was created in France in 2004 by Jean-Louis Saltel, previously founder and President of Drillflex. Saltel Industries is a family-owned company that first developed a technology called ‘Inflatable Packer’ to help a major oil and gas service company isolate and evaluate ground formations in a well. After a few successful years as the exclusive supplier of this large company, Saltel decided to diversify its activity and developed, in 2008, a new product called the ‘Casing Patch’. This device enables oil and gas operators to fix leaks in the metallic casing of a well. Thanks to this innovative product, the company has quickly grown and has now branches in Canada, USA, Argentina, Algeria and Australia. The growth of the company accelerated in 2012, going from 60 to a 100 staff, and has now stabilised around 80 due to the 2014-2015 oil price fall which has severely affected the industry.
In 2013, the CSG (Coal Seam Gas) boom in Queensland prompted the move of Saltel Industries to Australia. A new product, the Expandable Steel ECP (External Casing Packer), was specially designed for this market where thousands of wells are still to be drilled. This technology is implemented in the construction phase of wells, using steel versus rubber, which improves their impermeability in the long-term. Suitable for both conventional and CSG wells, this device brings better safety by preventing fluid migration and contamination of aquifers.
Despite the current difficulties of the oil & Gas sector, which has prompted many gas operators to stop or reduce drilling activities, Saltel has fared relatively well thanks to its innovative technology which brings more effectiveness than standard products, and, in particular, to its Patch system, which is what operators need to repair damaged or corroded wells. Indeed, when price is down, operators prefer maintaining old wells rather than drilling new ones. The strength of Saltel Industries is that we have products for both domains: Drilling and Workover.
In June 2016, Schlumberger Ltd, the world's leading provider of technology for the Oil and gas Industry acquired Saltel Industries to strengthen its portfolio in the growing completion remedial services market and sees the expandable steel packer as a disruptive technology for open-hole isolation.
Can you describe your personal background and your role within Saltel Industries Australia?
I started with Saltel as a VIE (Volontaire International en Entreprise), straight after my Engineer diploma in Energies and Processes from the Ecoles des Mines in Saint-Etienne. My first mission with Saltel took me to Texas during one year as a field engineer deploying Casing Patches. Due to my visa being delayed I also spend a few months beforehand at the Research and Development Department in Rennes, France as the ECP was being designed. Once in post, due to unforeseen circumstances I somehow found myself also in charge of the US branch accounting. My participation to a couple of international oil and gas exhibits somehow finished to convinced the Management that I was the right person to launch the new Saltel Australian venture.
Since my arrival late 2013, I have developed many key relationships in the industry, in 2015 we performed successful jobs in the region and oversaw successful field trials, but unfortunately the global downturn in the industry has delayed and cancelled many projects. For this reason, a lot of my time in 2015 has been dedicated to prospecting in Asia and I am pleased to announce that our first order from Indonesia is now effective. At this stage, I am still the only company’s representative in Australia, which in the current context, is key to maintaining overhead costs low, but hopefully not for long. I hope to be in a position to recruit in 2016 or 2017.
Since the acquisition, my role is also to operate a smooth integration in the group. The objective is to use Schlumberger footprint in Asia Pacific to maximise market access for all of our products. It is important that we diffuse technical knowledge related to our unique technology to all Schlumberger’s sales Engineers and business managers.
How do you envision the future of your company and how can FACCI help you achieve your objectives?
Despite the high level of uncertainties in the oil & gas industry, Saltel Industries is here to stay. Beyond the delays, we expect the gas operators will move ahead with the completion of their megaprojects in a near future. Furthermore, Brisbane is the perfect location to cover the South-East and Pacific regions and we beside Brunei, Malaysia and Indonesia we also have prospects in New Zealand and Papua New Guinea, both for onshore and offshore operations. Geothermal is another potential alley for development for us with opportunities in Japan, the Philippines and Indonesia. Finally, our technology has been recently qualified and approved for pipeline repair which opens a brand new market to us.
Our aim is to pursue our regional and Australian implantation and for this purpose we will keep taking advantage of the many networking opportunities offered by the French-Australian Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber’s 2016 Energy & Resources Industry Series is of particular interest to us, as well as its Executive Membership Connection Programme which offers Patron and Corporate members personalised introductions to other companies member of the network. Networking is part our strategy not only to meet potential clients but also suppliers or consultants. The Chamber can also enable us to meet key economic players across the board.
For more information, consult www.saltel-industries.com.
Interview conducted by Claire Dupré on the 30th of March 2016.
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